Officials at Yellowstone National Park now believe that some Yellowstone National Park entrances may reopen as soon as this weekend after Monday's historic flooding.
They say that it is likely that northern Yellowstone road sections will not reopen for the season because of the need to make repairs.
Yellowstone's northern road loop also includes the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and popular wildlife viewing areas within the Lamar Valley. It also includes the Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge, which is the park headquarters.
The southern loop of the road, which suffered less damage, leads to Old Faithful geyser and Yellowstone Lake. It also has a major visitor centre. Cam Sholly, the Park Superintendent, says that only half of the park can support all the visitors. We are looking at a variety of options.
These include a ticketed entry system or reservation system. Yellowstone National Park is visited by approximately 4 million people annually.
Late Monday night, flood waters in the Park reached their peak. Flood watches and warnings remain in place for many counties downstream from the Yellowstone river or its tributaries.
The community of Gardiner, just outside the park's northern gate, saw limited road access restored yesterday. It had been cut off for approximately 24 hours following roads were washed away Monday. Yellowstone Public Radio reports that the main highway from town is now accessible to residents and essential goods, as well as outgoing visitors.
Sholly advised people that they should get out as soon as possible. He said Tuesday, "Don't wait and see if there is another event." "I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to get out of here while I can."
Despite the fact that Gardiner's water is still unsafe, Gardiner businesses are forced to adapt.
Stacey Joy, a Gardiner lodger and cafe owner, explained to Olivia Weitz that they serve a limited menu but are doing their best in the midst a continual boil order.
She said that there is always a line at the door for espresso and coffee, which she could not do right now. "The water temperature isn't at a temperature long enough to make it safe.
She stated that she is "excited to see what [the park] plans are" regarding reopening the north entrance and northern road loop. It is Gardiner's second most-popular park and its lifeblood.
Joy was astonished at the "just the destruction of the roads, bridges, who knows, if the North entrance will be viable as a tourist option this year?"
Damage is still being assessed 50 miles downstream at the Yellowstone River, which runs through Livingston, Mont.
As Nick Mott, Montana Public Radio's Nick Mott reported on helping a friend and neighbor in Livingston to clean up after water had penetrated the sandbags, he said that "Everything was covered in a thick layer of mud." "I am standing in mud and muck right now."
Mott stated that flood damage is "relatively limited to areas close to the river." "But that's not an insignificant space in Livingston, as the city is oriented around it.
After being evacuated on Tuesday, the town's only hospital was reopened Wednesday morning. According to a post on the hospital's website, flood waters did not reach its building. However, the system's phone lines are still down.
Further downstream, floodwaters knocked out the water treatment plant at Billings, Montana's largest city. Billings, a city of 117,000, has water supply "between a half and a full day."
Officials believe water levels will reach a peak today. They need them to fall by approximately a foot to allow the plant to start operating again. However, the plant still needs to clean filters in order to function properly. Residents are asked to conserve water while they wait.
Due to the washed-out roads, only one park gateway town is left. It's Cooke City at Yellowstone's northeast entrance.
Jackson Hole Community Radio, Tuesday's commissioner for Park County, Montana said that "we can't provide law enforcement service out there right now." "We cannot get out there to pick-up the trash. Some of this stuff can be quite basic."
Red Lodge is located at the base of Cooke City's mountains. It was flooded in large parts and remains without water or subject to a boil order.
"What we are trying to concentrate on right now is travel routes at bridges, and access. "That's our number one concern," Carbon County Incident Commandant Tom Kuntz stated. "Water and sewer are our number two concern, [and] equally important."
Kuntz briefed Montana Lieutenant Governor Kristan Juras on yesterday. Governor Greg Gianforte currently is out of the country. He has been criticized for not returning home quickly after the state's historic flooding. His office says that he will be returning as soon as possible.
Yellowstone Public Radio reports that Kuntz stated that river levels are still rising downstream of Red Lodge, Bridger and Fromberg. He said that the combination of snow melt on the mountains and warmer weather could cause another flooding event. Both conditions are expected to be present on Saturday, although they could be less severe.
Since June 13th, helicopters from the Montana Army National Guard have rescued 87 individuals and flown for more than 41 hours to support search and rescue operations in South Central Montana.
Katie Wise, an artist from Colorado who was visiting, was one of them. She was saved from East Rosebud, and taken to Red Lodge's evacuee centre.
"I feel pretty adrenalined right now. She said that her heart was pounding. The most stressful thing was that we didn’t know the helicopters would be coming. We were talking about how we were going do the whole water and food rationing, and then we were going do a food inventory to gather back as a group.
At least 12 Montana counties are currently under flood watches or warnings today and tomorrow. They are primarily located along the Yellowstone River. The flood warning for Glacier National Park and surrounding areas is still in effect.